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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tastespotting NOT Gone

Well it looks like is NOT gone, after all.

I had heard rumblings about it coming back last week when their homepage had a couple more messages added to it, saying they're coming back shortly. And then this morning African Vanielje left a comment on the original " Gone" post that it was back!

When I went there this morning, indeed the pictures were back...and it looked like they kept all of them. The site says it's "no longer part of notcot", so I guess the "legal complications" were all about transferring ownership of the thumbnails. Well, why didn't they say so in the first place?

Why cause so much trauma to their loyal viewership?

And what do we do now? What about the Tastespotting clone,, plus the other substitutes that popped up in the week that TS was in limbo? It is definitely possible to overload on food porn. Will we all flock back to the (not-so) original? Will we try to live with this new "Balkanized" food photography reality?

I still kinda feel hurt that they shut the site down without warning. Plus with this change of ownership, I don't know if I can trust them yet. Will they have the same editorial policies? How will they prevent other, unscrupulous users from posting pictures that don't belong to them? Will the new owners try to monetize the site?

I don't know. What do you plan to do?


Related link: Does My Blog Look Good In This? Compilation

Continue Reading: "Tastespotting NOT Gone"...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We've been Blogspotted!

The House of Annie blog is very thrilled to be Blogspotted in the Malay Mail, one of the main afternoon newspapers in all of Malaysia! Welcome, and selamat datang, to all you readers who found us through that article!

Just a small correction in the article:

Annie is not a doctor; she has finished her coursework and is ABD - "all but dissertation". One day, she may decide to go back and finish her PhD but currently the only doctoring she does is to doctor recipes and our kids' boo-boos ;-)

Thank you Num, for scanning in the actual newspaper article for us.

And thank you to Sheila Rahman, the editor who interviewed us. We look forward to getting to know you new readers better. Feel free to leave comments or questions.

Cheers and Aloha,

Annie & Nate

Continue Reading: "We've been Blogspotted!"...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Blogger Wishlist

Writing a blog is not easy. Doing a food blog is doubly hard, because not only do you have to have good prose, you also have to have good pictures to go along with it. I mean, how can you share about cooking and eating food if no one can see what you're talking about? But at least taking pictures of food and then writing about it is fun.

You see, there's a dark side to blogging: template tweaking. The "Dirty Job", if you will, to making civilized blogging possible. I use Blogger as the back-end engine for the House of Annie blog. It's nice and customizable, but there are lots of things that I have to really work at in order to get the blog looking the way I want it. If only Blogger had them already by default!

It would be nice to not have to work so hard on tweaking Blogger. That way I could spend more time on quality content (and quality sleep!). So here is my wishlist of things Blogger should implement to make my life easier.

Three-Column Templates

The original House of Annie blog template was a 2-column one. That was all right to start with. But as I started to add more widgets to the single sidebar, the page kept getting longer and longer. I wanted to add a second sidebar to shorten the page so you wouldn't have to scroll so much to see all the different widgets and links. You don't know how many hours of sleep I lost trying to understand, then mess with the template and change it from 2-column to 3-column.

I finally got it to pretty much where I wanted it. But now I'm thinking about tweaking the design again. Yet I'm hesitant to do that because it took me so long to get things working the last time. If Blogger had 3-column templates, and a good selection of them at that, I wouldn't be so chicken to dive back in to the nuts and bolts of template tweaking.

Unlimited, Easy Photo Uploading

I use Picasa to manage and edit my photo collection. It's free, simple to use yet powerful enough, and best of all, it has a nifty "Blog This!" button that allows me to select photos, create a blog entry, and upload them to Blogger. The problem is, Picasa only allows four photos per blog entry at a time. Four photos might be enough for most of my posts, but sometimes you need more. Look at FotoCuisine's blog, for example. I don't think they could get away with only four pictures per post!

There used to be a way to get more than four pictures per blog post uploaded at the same time. It was called "BloggerBot", a bot on the old Hello photo chat network that you could access through Picasa. I blogged about it back in 2006. Unfortunately, Hello is now defunct. BloggerBot has died. And the only way to have more than four pics in a single blog post is to use the klunky Blogger web interface. What's worse, when you upload a picture, it places the pic at the top of the blog instead of where your cursor was. You have to manually move it down! What a pain in the arse!

So my wish is two-fold. For Picasa to be able to upload unlimited photos per blog post. And for Blogger to fix its dumb image uploading interface so that the picture gets put where the cursor was instead of at the top of the page.

Conditional Expandable Post Summaries

I'm proud to say, I got it working, and without too much headache. I blogged about it here and here. But wouldn't it be nice to not have to tweak the template? Wouldn't it be nice to already have that capability built in?

I think so.

Conditional Expandable Post Summaries in Feeds

Going along with that, I'd like to see the ability to specify exactly how much you want to display in an RSS feed. An RSS feed is a way in which readers can subscribe to stay up to date with a blog via email or in a special reader application. A subscriber can automatically see new posts without having to constantly check the blog's site every day to see whether it has been updated. It's a very powerful tool. If you want to get new posts of House of Annie by email, just click the Subscribe link here or at the top of the page.

Currently, Blogger only gives me three feed options: None, Short, or Full. If I choose None, there will be no RSS feed for people to subscribe to. If I choose Short, Blogger will only display the first 255 characters - no pictures - in the feed. The subscriber will have to click on a link to view the rest in their web browser. If I choose Full, then the full post will be seen in the subscriber's RSS reader.

The problem is, there are unscrupulous people out there who take Full RSS posts and apply them to their own websites in order to gain readers and ultimately sell ads. These "scrapers" are stealing other people's content for their own personal gain. It's a widespread issue among the blogging community, but not much has been done to stop it.

Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is one flogger who had her content stolen by a scraper. So she has decided to switch her RSS feed from Full to Short. But the problem is, a Short feed only gives 255 characters - not quite enough to build a good summary - and NO pictures. It makes a feed a lot less interesting. I'd wager there would be less people clicking through to view the rest of an entry if they only got the first 255 characters of a post.

So I'd like to see Conditional Expandable Posts Summaries as an option in RSS feeds. The ability to select exactly what in a post you'd like to display in a feed before having to click "Continue Reading:..." Simply Recipes' RSS feed can do it. That is probably because her blog is powered by Movable Type instead of Blogger. But I'm sure the geniuses at Google can figure out how to add this functionality to Blogger.

So, this is my Blogger wishlist. If you are on Blogger and have some wishes of your own, blog about it and then tell BloggerBuster. They're collecting ideas for new Blogger features. You might even win a prize!


Continue Reading: "My Blogger Wishlist"...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Roasted Tomato, Onion and Pepper Gazpacho

Tomato season is rolling around, and soon we'll be inundated with a bounty of tomatoes from our garden.

Part of last year's bounty:

I've documented quite a few recipes for utilizing the tomato harvest. One of my favorite tomato recipes has got to be gazpacho. Gazpacho is the perfect dinner for a warm summer evening. Now I've found a way to boost the cancer-fighting power of this cold tomato soup, without a lot of extra work.


Free radicals are molecules in your body that can damage your DNA and cause cancer. Antioxidants in your body neutralize these free radicals. One of the most potent antioxidants around is a chemical called lycopene. Lycopene is what gives many red fruits, including tomatoes, their color. Therefore, eating tomatoes increases the antioxidants in your body and reduces free radicals. In fact, studies have shown that increased tomato consumption is related to decreased prostate cancer risk.

Now, here's the kicker. A recent study has shown that cooking tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene that your body will absorb. Sauces using cooked tomatoes are better for your health.

My normal gazpacho recipe simply calls for raw tomatoes to be buzzed and then strained. This time, I decided to roast the tomatoes first. I figure this will make traditional gazpacho healthier.

Roasted Tomato, Onion and Pepper Gazpacho Recipe

10 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, skin removed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Penzey's Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 cup English Cucumber, chopped.


Preheat the oven to 350*F

Chop and seed the tomatoes, reserving the liquids. Lay the tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, garlic and pepper out on a foiled sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven to cool. Turn all the roasted vegetables into a pot along with the reserved tomato liquids plus a couple cups of water.

Using a stick blender, buzz the mixture together until it is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, lemon juice and smoked paprika. Chill the soup in the refrigerator until time to serve.

Ladle the gazpacho into a bowl and garnish with chopped cucumber.



Continue Reading: "Roasted Tomato, Onion and Pepper Gazpacho"...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WSM Smoked Turkey

Do you have a lurking turkey? You know, the spare one you bought on sale around Thanksgiving time 'cause it was dirt cheap, and you figured you could use it "sometime later". But of course, you forgot all about it sitting there behind the two dozen other things you've stuffed in the freezer since then.

Yeah, I had one of those. Two of 'em, actually. (We have a big freezer in the garage.) I needed to make some space in the freezer, so I decided to smoke one of the turkeys.

(And dang, did that sucker make a huge blunt!)

Just kidding. By smoking, I mean instead of heating up the kitchen with a hot oven, I would cook the turkey outside using my Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker. So I defrosted one of the turkeys and then spatchcocked it. "Spatchcocked"? Ooh, sounds naughty!

Perhaps a little explanation is called for. Simply put, a "spatchcocked" bird is one that is butterflied - it has had its backbone and keel bone removed so that it can be flattened out. Its chief benefit is that a flattened bird will cook faster and more evenly than a carcass left whole. There's a good video by Chris Allingham of The Virtual Weber Bullet showing how to butterfly a chicken over on YouTube. Butterflying a turkey takes a bit more work, but the concept and steps are essentially the same.

I normally brine my turkeys using Alton Brown's brine recipe before roasting, as this keeps the birds juicy during the long cook in the oven. But since these birds were the "enhanced" type that were already brined before freezing, there was no need to brine again. Instead, I used the rub and injection recipe from Barbecue University to flavor the turkey.

Rub Ingredients:
1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried thyme (preferably ground)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried sage leaves
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

*Note: I find that rubbing seasoning on the outside of a bird is just messy and doesn't let all the flavor penetrate to the meat. Instead of rubbing the seasoning on top of the skin, I carefully separate the skin from the meat and smear the seasoning underneath the skin.

I set the Weber Smokey Mountain up with a couple of chimneys full of lump charcoal and a log of cherry wood for smoke flavor. The turkey went on the top grate of the WSM, which was running at about 300*F in the dome.

I monitored the temperature through a remote probe thermometer inserted into the breast. After about 2.5 hours, the temp in the breast hit 165*F and I pulled it out of the smoker. I moved the turkey to a pan, covered it in foil, and took it inside to give it time to rest.

As with most of smoked turkeys I've done, the skin was rubbery and inedible. You have peel it off and toss it. (See, that's why you want to rub the seasoning under the skin instead of on top!) The seasoning rub was pretty flavorful. However the injection didn't permeate the breast - it mostly stayed in the channel that the needle made.

Dinner was smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a side of steam-fried broccoli with garlic, shallots, and pine nuts. I just love that extra "ohhh, mmmm" factor that food cooked over charcoal gives!

So, what are YOU going to do with your lurking turkey?


More turkey recipes: Turkey Hash, Turkey Jook, Turkey Tortilla Soup,Turkey Omurice, Turkey Soup
More barbecue recipes:Apple City Ribs, Pulled Pork, Ribs on the Weber Smokey Mountain

Continue Reading: "WSM Smoked Turkey"...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Roast Chicken with White Bean Stew

Beans, beans
Good for your heart
Beans, beans
GREAT for your heart!
-- from the "Bean Cafe" skit on SNL


We had finished gorging on the heavenly porchetta from Roli Roti at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market. Now we came to the real reason for going to the market - Rancho Gordo's heirloom beans :

After talking with the Ranch Gordo bean evangelists, Annie bought several packets of different kinds of beans, including kindney beans, Navy beans, and their most popular seller, Cannellini beans. We brought them home, and Annie found a recipe on Epicurious that she decided to adapt.

Roast Chicken with White Bean Stew

2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 skinless chicken thigh pieces
6 ounces bacon, chopped
1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small carrot, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
6 cups low-salt chicken broth

2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

2. In a large dutch oven, brown the chicken thighs in olive oil over medium-high heat, then set aside.

3. Brown some bacon and then sweat the chopped garlic, diced onion, fennel, bell pepper, celery, and carrot in the pot.

4. Add the red wine, the drained beans, and the chicken stock to the pot. Settle the chicken back into the pot along with a couple of bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil before putting it in the preheated oven.

5. Cook the stew in the oven for an hour and a half until the beans are cooked through.

6. Remove the pot from the oven, then stir in the two tbsp of tomato paste to combine

7. Chop the rosemary and parsley, and zest the lemons with a Microplane grater. Mix the gremolata together and set aside.

8. Serve in individual bowls, chicken atop the beans. Garnish with the gremolata.

This stew had great flavor and texture. The chicken was really tender. But it was the lemon zest in the garnish that really brought it alive.

Beans, beans, the magical fruit.
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let's eat beans for every meal!


Continue Reading: "Roast Chicken with White Bean Stew"...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Does My Blog Look Good In This? Compilation

Now that is gone, Even though Tastespotting is back, where do all us food porn addicts go for our fix? Sure, we can surf to our favorite sites like La Tartine Gourmande, Rasa Malaysia and Steamy Kitchen, but how about finding new sites and sources? I don't think there was a better site than TS for compiling all the freshest, tastiest, most drool-inducing photos on the 'Net.

I hope somebody will soon figure out how to duplicate what Tastespotting did without drawing the ire of the wrong people. Maybe there's already a site that is already fitting the bill. If YOU know of a good site, PLEASE, leave a comment!

Until then, I'm just going to have to satisfy myself with old galleries of "Does My Blog Look Good In This?" photos. What is DMBLGIT, you ask?

"Does My Blog Look Good In This?" is a monthly food photo contest that is hosted on different websites. Food bloggers submit their best photos from posts they did in the previous month. Then several judges score the photos and declare winners in three categories (edibility, aesthetics, and originality) plus overall winners. Each month, a new contest starts, hosted on a different food blogger's site.

This is my entry for the May 2007 contest, from my Shrimp Salad post in April 2007:

To my knowledge, no one has a complete list of all the different contests. Not even the DMBLGIT mothership. So I cobbled together a table of all the contests I could find and put them in chronological order. Think of it as an index of back issues for food porn.


Some of the DMBLGIT contest galleries were placed on Flickr. If you click this link, you can watch a slideshow of those images.

Other galleries were placed on Picasaweb. Click this link to view all those images (sorry, no slideshow).

Finally, there's my personal food porn collection on Xanga.

EDIT: A few people have taken up the challenge and stepped in to replicate what Tastespotting has done: Food Porn Daily and Food Gawker. Good luck to them both!

EDIT: I've come upon another monthly food photo contest called CLICK, hosted by Jugalbandi. If you know of any other food photo contests, comment below and tell me about it!

EDIT: is back, just as another clone, PhotoGrazing - created by the people who run Serious Eats - pops up.

EDIT: I ran across another food porn-type event called Snackshots, hosted by the Greedy Gourmet. Do you know of any other food photo contests? Reveal your findings!

EDIT: you can view my submissions to Tastespotting and FoodGawker (the ones they accepted, at least) here: TasteSpotting profile, FoodGawker submissions. Yeah, they're the same photos, I know. I'm hedging my bets ;-)

EDIT: Shari @ Whisk provided links to 4 more food porn sites: Foodie Views, Liqurious, New Tastings, and Recipe Muncher. Thanks, Shari!


Continue Reading: "Does My Blog Look Good In This? Compilation"...

Friday, June 13, 2008 Gone

One of my favorite places to go look at food porn is Every day, it showcased some beautiful examples of what food bloggers around the world were cooking and photographing. Today when I went to get my fix, I see this message on the front page:

What the heck? Please, say it ain't so! Tastespotting gone? Kaput? Offline forever? Why?!


The message is terse and doesn't give a clue as to what "legal complications" caused TS to shut down. Tastespotting did so much to open up the world of food blogging and food photography. It made the "floggerverse" a more beautiful place. I can't imagine any single food blogger suing to shut a site that gave them a chance to showcase their work and bring new visitors to their own blog. But I can guess as to what these "legal complications" might be.

We're all aware of the problem of content scrapers - blogs that repost without permission content from other sites in order to attract traffic. Of course, they display ads and thus earn revenue. But they don't create any of their own content, preferring to steal the hard work of others, often without attribution and certainly without compensation.

I can imagine that some scrapers would steal a nice picture off of some website, upload it to Tastespotting with a link back to their own site instead of the original, and wait for some unsuspecting food porn addicts to click in. Now, it's bad enough if they steal from a food blogger who is just doing it out of love. I've personally had issues with two websites who were reposting my content without my permission (since resolved). But if the criminals actually steal from somebody with deep pockets and a cadre of lawyers (say F**d Network, for example) then that could be a real problem.

I'm not saying it's Tastespotting's fault that some unscrupulous people are misusing it. Neither am I saying that a corporation doesn't have a right to defend its copyrights. All I am saying is, if what I described above really is the case, then content scrapers have really gone too far and hurt a much larger portion of the foodie community by causing TS to disappear.

What are your thoughts about Tastespotting's demise?

I don't know about you. I'm going to grieve a little while, then get working on my Does My Blog Look Good In This compilation post. It's an idea that I have had on the back burner but now with TS gone, I'm motivated to bring it to life. Stay tuned. I should have it up by Monday. (Ooops! shades of my phantom Scott's Seafood post!)

(EDIT: The DMBLGIT compilation post is done! I finished it two days early, HA! Click here for links to some quality food porn. )

Aloha, Tastespotting. You will be truly missed. Now where do I go for my fresh food porn fix??

Continue Reading: " Gone"...

Mi Lindo Yucatan (San Francisco)

We were planning to head up to San Francisco to buy some herbs (no, not that kind of herb ;-) ) and spices at San Francisco Herb Company (more on this later) in the Mission District. Since we were going to be there around lunch time, I thought, why not look for a good Mexican place to eat in the Mission? Searching, I found a couple places that looked promising and chose Mi Lindo Yucatan. Printed out the 20% off coupon, and off we went.

Contrary to popular belief, Mexican food isn't just about tacos, burritos, enchiladas or fajitas. (Fajitas, by the way, aren't even Mexican - they're Tex-Mex). Taco Bell has as much to do with Mexican cuisine as Panda Express has to do with Chinese cuisine. Mexico is a large country with a very long and varied culinary history. Mi Lindo Yucatan features cuisine from the Yucatan Peninsula in Southern Mexico. Its main cuisinal (is that even a word? <flips through dictionary>) influence is from the Mayan culture as well as French and Spanish cuisine.

What new flavors would we find at Mi Lindo Yucatan?

Ordinarily, I wouldn't mention freebies like the chips and salsa, but these were different. The chips were like they were made from whole grains than flour. And the salsa was so addicting. I think they put ground peanuts in it or something. There was a second salsa, made with habaneros, that had me sucking down the water. It burned so good!

The kids had this chicken tamale which was unlike anything I've had before. The corn was actually very creamy, almost like mashed potatoes. It was steamed in a banana leaf, then topped with a tomato sauce. Delicious!

It was a very cold and blustery day in San Francisco, so Annie wanted to get a nice warm bowl of soup. They had pozole on the menu. Very nice. Lots of meat and hominy lurking at the bottom, plenty of veggies and tortilla strips on top, and yummy but not spicy broth holding it all together.

I got the "poc chuc" which is marinated pork that his chargrilled and cut into bite-sized pieces. They served it with some fresh corn tortillas, radish, cabbage, tomato, avocado, and a black bean sauce. The plate of meat was huge but I couldn't stop eating it, it was so tasty.

Overall, I'd say it was a great find for us. The food was terrific, and prices were reasonable. With the coupon, it was even more of a value!

View Larger Map

Mon-Sat 11 am - 11 pm
Sun 11 am - 10 pm


Continue Reading: "Mi Lindo Yucatan (San Francisco)"...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Roli Roti Porchetta (San Francisco)

What's the best roast pork you've ever eaten?

I've eaten a lot of different kinds of roast pork over the years, from Chinese roast pork, to char siu, to Hawaiian-style kalua pig, to pulled pork barbecue, and many others. I've even had some awesome roast pork knuckle (I didn't even know pigs had knuckles) from a restaurant in the state of Kedah in Malaysia.

And then, I discovered porchetta. Ever since reading this article on Eating Asia, we've been wanting to visit the Roli Roti rolling rotisserie vendor at the San Francisco Ferry Building to have some of this delicious roast pork. One fine Saturday morning, we had occasion to drive up to San Fran to shop at the Farmer's Market there and, of course, buy some porchetta.

Chicken, chicken, porchetta, and chicken roasting on the rotisserie. Potatoes are sitting on the bottom tray, catching all the heavenly drippings from above.

When we first got there in late morning, there was already long line of people waiting for his porchetta to be finished. While we watched from the queue, he pulled the pork roast off the rotisserie, cut a chunk off the end, and examined it. It was still pink in the middle. He told us that he couldn't sell it to us because it wasn't fully cooked yet. "Come back in about 50 minutes."

Well, we came this far. We decided to stick around and peruse the other vendors at the market, checking back every 15 minutes "just in case". We went back twice because it wasn't done the first time. By the time the pork finally passed the chef's muster, the line was much smaller because it was already getting to about 1:30 in the afternoon. We were ravenous. We hadn't eaten lunch, preferring to simply graze at the farmer's market stalls while we waited for the porchetta to finish.

Besides a half chicken and some potatoes, we got one pound of his porchetta. It is seriously good stuff! Fatty and delicious, well seasoned with rosemary, fennel, whole peppercorns, and sea salt. We gratefully took it, sat down on a picnic bench, and gorged on perfect pork.

It is too bad that his porchetta is only sold at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, even though he has rolling rotisserie trucks at farmer's markets all over the Bay Area. He just won't trust any of the other cooks with his pork.

Roli Roti Rotisserie Truck at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 8 to 2. Follow the smell of roasting meat, then stand in line and hope he has any left by the time you get to the counter.


Continue Reading: "Roli Roti Porchetta (San Francisco)"...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bun Rieu Cua

Here's a tip for any would-be bloggers out there: never say you're going to blog about something "coming up next." You're just setting yourself up for serious trouble when Murphy strikes you with a serious case of writer's block.

It's been a month since I put in that darn scrolling marquee, proclaiming the soon-to-be posted memoir of our visit to Scott's Seafood. I thought it would motivate me to keep up with the regular posting. Instead it has been mocking me the whole time.

"C'mon already! What, can't even put two sentences together? Neener neener neener!"

Bleah. I've gotta get over this funk. And the only way to do it is just get posting again. So, I'm going to put the Scott's Seafood post on the back burner and pull something up to the front burner. A post that has been waiting just as long as the Scott's Seafood post to see the light of day, but at least hasn't been thumbing its nose and blowing raspberries at me.

Bun Rieu Cua

Bun rieu cua is a Vietnamese soup noodle dish that has a tomato and tamarind flavored broth with meatballs made from ground pork, crab meat and shrimp meat. This dish was taught to Annie by my sister, who got the recipe from her Vietnamese mother-in-law. It has become our favorite Vietnamese soup noodle dish to make at home, made more often then pho.

Meatball ingredients:

1 lb ground pork
1 lb shrimp, shelled and minced (reserve the shells)
1 bottle crab paste in bean oil
1 can bun rieu sauce
1 egg

Start by mixing up the meatballs. In this instance we used ground turkey as well as ground pork plus the minced shrimp. To that we added the jar of crab paste and the can of bun rieu sauce. Then we added in the egg and mixed well until combined. At this point, you can boil one meatball to taste (some brands of the crab paste are saltier than others). Adjust seasonings accordingly. _

*If you want the meatballs to be even more amazing, you can add a can of lump crabmeat to the mix.

Broth ingredients:

Shrimp shell broth
1 can chicken broth
3 cups water
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or 8-10 chopped fresh tomatoes if you have them)
1 tbsp tamarind soup base mix (or to taste depending on how sour you like it)
3-4 stalks green onion, chopped
a few squirts of ketchup for color

Take the reserved shrimp shells and put them in a pot, then cover with water and bring to a simmer. Strain out the broth into a large stock pot.

To the stock pot, add the can of chicken broth , water, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Form the meatball mixture into dumplings with a spoon and drop them into the stock. When they are cooked through, remove from the stock. Throw in green onions at the end. Add ketchup and tamarind soup base mix according to your taste and color preference.

Bowl ingredients:
1 pkg aburaage (deep fried tofu puffs)
1 pkg rice stick noodles (we use Jiangxi rice vermicelli noodles, or bun giang tay)
1/2 lb bean sprouts, washed
1 bunch purple shiso, leaves removed from the stems
1/4 head cabbage, shredded fine

Cut up the aburaage into bite-size pieces and and warm those up in the stock after the meatballs have been removed.

In another pot, boil some water and cook the rice stick noodles according to the instructions. Drain and set aside. Rinse the bean sprouts and shiso leaves and set aside. Finely shred the cabbage.

To assemble soup bowl, start with the noodles, then add some sprouts, shiso and cabbage. Ladle in some of the boiling hot soup until the veggies are covered, then pour the soup back into the pot. This will warm and wilt the veggies slightly.

Refill the bowl with soup and top with meatballs and aburaage. For an added, pungent kick, serve with a teaspoon of harm ha (Chinese salted shrimp paste).

For me, this is one of those perfect dishes that has all the flavors. The sweetness of the shrimp and crab, the saltiness of the harm ha, the sourness from the tamarind, the slight bitterness of the raw cabbage, and the umami of the tomato. The meatballs are heavy while the aburaage are light. The noodles are slippery, the bean sprouts are crunchy, and the shiso is...shiso-y.

Well, I hope this bun reiu cua recipe is worth the wait. One of these days, I may get to the Scott's Seafood post...but no promises!


Other homemade Vietnamese food: Pandan Waffles, Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Other soups using tomato: Turkey Tortilla Soup, Bouillabaisse, Pork, Eggplant, and Shiso Soup

Continue Reading: "Bun Rieu Cua"...